Welcome to Tone Tips Part 1! In this series, we're going to help those of you out there learn how find and create pretty much any tone imaginable! Its not as hard as you might think. It's all about learning the key players involved in tone, their signature sound and how they react when paired with each other. We're talking pickups, an instrument's body type, amps, effects and even choice in plectrum (picks)... all ingredients to a recipe where the main dish is your tone!
Explore the Signature Sound of your Favorite Guitar/Musician Combo
A good way to start off learning about tone basics is to try and recreate one of your favorites -- at least at its basic level. Think of a song or an artist's sound and go from there. Once you have one in mind, you can slightly build around it and modify until you have a certain tone that is uniquely your own. Sure, you can try to recreate your player’s sound exactly, but you'll soon find out that a musician's personal touch plays as much a part in tone as their gear does. What kind of guitar do they tend to play? What about the pickups? Although most players don’t stick to simply one type, there is a very good chance that your favorite player had a certain main axe for most of their songs since different body types will yield much different tones. Clapton preferred solid bodies such as the Stratocaster or a Les Paul, John Lennon made the Epiphone Casino hollow body signature to the Beatles and there is simply no way Jimi Hendrix can be pictured without his cream white ‘Woodstock’ Strat (Stratocasters are a very popular choice if you can’t already tell). In case you’re not sure what kind of guitar was used by your favorite guitarist, you can head over to our artist profile section for individual information on their gear.
Alright, now that you have the right guitar type in mind, we can go on to the finer details of what sets apart those old vintage and reissue guitars from their modern standard variants. While purchasing an actual vintage model guitar will be best (and most expensive probably), there are plenty of reissued models for many of rock’s most famous guitars such as the Gibson Les Paul or Fender’s Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars that do a pretty good job at staying faithful to the originals. You can also use a regular model guitar but you will have to do a few more things in order to compensate for the differences between the modern and vintage models, but nothing that huge, namely, getting different pickups and strings.